Models of X
Thoughts on Liz Larner's X sculpture from the Nasher Sculpture Center and Arts and Technology
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the Nasher Sculpture Center presents Nasher XChange Exhibition Sites, a dynamic public art exhibition consisting of 10 newly-commissioned public sculptures by contemporary artists at 10 sites throughout the city of Dallas. The Edith O'Donnell Arts and Technology building at UT Dallas is proud home to Liz Larner's sculpture, X. The following are thoughts on the piece by UT Dallas faculty and associates.
Thoughts on X
Los Angeles-based artist Liz Larner engages some of the most basic issues of sculpture, such as the relation of line and mass, or of volume and density, yet she does so in unexpected and thoughtful ways, in a range of materials and techniques.
For Nasher XChange, Larner has created two sculptures for the new Edith O'Donnell Arts and Technology Building that can be seen as figures enacting the exchange of ideas between these disciplines.
The X-shape of the sculptures, described by the artist as continuing "my investigation into the open form and the use of line to create volume," has developed over several years and could not have been realized without Larner's use of digital modeling technology.
A wood version of the sculpture, on view inside the building, embodies the intersection of traditional sculpture media and new technology.
A stainless steel version, in the outdoor courtyard, evokes the futuristic and technological, providing a fleeting succession of colors and flashes of light and shadow reflecting the activities and experiences of the building's occupants and visitors.
Curator, Nasher Sculpture Center
Reflections on the Installation of X
Creativity, collaboration and time were required to install Liz Larner’s two X sculptures as part of the Nasher XChange 10th Anniversary project in the Edith O’Donnell Art and Technology Building. Liz Larner’s creativity is at the heart of these works and responds to the ATEC program merging art and technology
The installations took four days of intense work with the artist, Liz Larner, and Jed Morse of the Nasher supervising every aspect. Displays Fine Arts Services of Dallas provided a crane and a team skilled in preparation. The UT Dallas Facilities Management team, led by Thea Junt, helped to prepare the courtyard for the installation.
The maple model of X is comprised of four components that come together at the top. After many siting on the platform the final selection was made and when the four arms of the sculpture came together there was a snap! Liz said it best: “A happy sound!”
The installation of the X stainless steel sculpture over two misty, cold days required a team working in mud and a crane to move the piece around in the courtyard. Aligning the four footings to precisely hold the sculpture in the grass required six attempts. The next morning the UTD landscaping team completed their work and the X was finally unwrapped. The sculpture's highly reflective and brilliant surfaces were glimmering in the bright November sun the day before the dedication ceremonies.
Distinguished Scholar in Residence
What is the difference between any two of the following:
- Liz Larner’s X sculpture,
- a certain type of jellyfish,
- and the Eiffel tower?
The answer: very little.
Computer scientists are trained to think mathematically about things that they see, and there is ample use of abstraction when conceptualizing.
However, this abstraction is not like abstract art because the abstraction is conceptual, not perceptual; it is not based on the senses. For example, X has what we would call a tree structure, and in particular it it resembles a quad tree, which is a mental abstraction used for organizing space and objects.
The quad tree structure is shown using four green arrows overlaying an photograph of X. A jellyfish with four tentacles is shown to the left of the sculpture. Similarity is achieved by seeing that the jellyfish and X, when taken to a higher level of conceptual abstraction, are identical. An apartment with four rooms would also map to X.
Distinguished Endowed Chair of Arts and Technology
Professor of Computer Science
Art and Tech Loop in Liz Larner's X Sculpture
When we look at Liz Larner's X sculpture, we see not only the sculpture, but also the surroundings reflected on it. It evokes the reflective sphere used in computer graphics in the technique of environment mapping. An environment map of a scene is captured by holding up a reflective sphere, such as a Christmas tree ornament, and taking a high resolution image of it. This map can then be used to digitally render a new object in that scene. This technique was famously used to create the liquid metal man in Terminator 2.
Computer graphics is the theory and practice of creating visual representations of the real world via computers. This involves creating the geometry (i.e., digitally modeling an object), and the appearance (i.e., rendering the model with the chosen materials, lighting and viewpoint). It's cool that computer graphics technology (digital modeling) enabled the creation this sculpture, and the sculpture, in its turn, evokes a computer graphics technique.
Assistant Professor, University of Florida
X as in X-Rays
Liz Larner’s X sculptures provide us with a new way of viewing a space — the space enclosed by the sculptures, a space we would not be able to see if the sculptures did not exist. In doing so the X sculptures act like X-rays.
Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays in 1895 changed the way people could see things, especially the human body. Unlike normal light, which reflects off the surface of bodies, X-rays illuminate the interior spaces of bodies.
In the novel The Magic Mountain (1924), Thomas Mann, whose wife studied physics with Roentgen, portrayed X-rays as a magical instrument that could allow the visualization of not just the unseen organs of the human body but also emotions and possibly even the soul. In a similar way the X sculptures can act as magical instruments to see the unseen.
David F. Channell
Professor of the History of Science and Technology
More About the Nasher Exhibit
- ATEC Professor Reflects On Nasher XChange Installation
Oct. 24, 2013
- Nasher Brings Two Sculptures to Campus as Part of 10-Location Exhibit
October 17, 2013
- New ATEC Building Sight of Next Nasher XChange Work
July 26, 2013